Saturday, July 11, 2009

the medium and which message?

New digitial media is all pervasive. It penetrates into our culture like the tide penetrates into low lying land and cannot be resisted. Worst case scenario: wait for the older generation to die out (Kuhn)

On the other hand, Enlightenment ideas (non universals) have to be won by hard argument. Historically, they required revolutions before they could be won, revolutions which continue to this day (eg. Iran). Many people in modern societies have little real understanding of maths or science which makes our modernity possible.

A lot of discussion about educational reform thinks that the new media is the message and has stopped thinking about which message is important

Related (from a previous blog):

A computer does computation. And most people don't really understand computation and what it is capable of. I was struck by this passage from Rodney Brooks book, Flesh and Machines, where he compares the impact of the computation idea (not disruptive intellectually, continuous with existing ideas) with the impact of quantum mechanics or relativity (which marked a sharp intellectual discontinuity with previous ideas) :
... computation was not disruptive intellectually, although the consequences of the mathematics that Turing and von Neumann developed did have disruptive technological consequences. A late-nineteenth-century mathematician would be able to understand the idea of Turing computability and a von Neumann architecture with a few days instruction. They would then have the fundamentals of modern computation. Nothing would surprise them or cause them to cry out in intellectual pain as quantum mechanics or relativity would if a physicist from the same era were exposed to them. Computation was a gentle, nondisruptive idea, but one that was immensely powerful... [pp. 188-9]

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